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Sep 21st
Home Columns JGL Eye Judging the Muslims Before 9/11
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Columns - JGL Eye
Saturday, 03 September 2011 11:46



JGL Eye Column


(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)


C HICAGO (jGLi) – Because 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks ten years ago came from Arab countries, anti-Muslim sentiments suddenly gained traction in the United States and its allied countries.


Why? Most Arabs are Muslims while Christians are the minority in Arab countries. Put is this way, in the United States, the majority is Christian (mostly Protestants) while a very-small minority is Muslim. In the Philippines, majority is Catholic while the minority is composed of Protestants (also Christians) and Muslims plus the Lumads (non-Muslim minorities of Mindanao).


My three days’ attendance at the recent Asian-American Journalists Association (AAJA) in Detroit, Michigan, courtesy of my fellowship from Ford Foundation, gave me some insights into the Arab-American World.


When I was studying in the Philippines from grade school to college, I really did not have enough information about the Muslims, except that it is observed by a big group of minority in Mindanao.


Because I was reared in a Catholic environment (two years under the SVD (Society of the Divine Word) in high school and another two years of college in a Benedictine school, my only knowledge about Muslim is that it allows four wives, which is anathema to a monogamous marriage promoted by Catholics (although many Catholic men want to have extra-marital relations with women other than their wife); they don’t eat pork and they are quarreling with their Christian neighbors like mixing oil with water.




B ut my first-hand and few hours “immersion” in a Muslim culture started with my introduction to finger food courses at the Adonis Restaurant by the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn, where I met an active Michigan Filipino-American leader, Willie Dechavez.

An AAJA fellow participant, Ms. Mae Yousif-Bashi, Multimedia Communications Specialist of ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), a support group among Arab American community in Dearborn, told me among the finger foods that I ate were hummus dipped in chickpeas or the tabouli with parley, both favorite delicacies from Iraq. Or the falafel, the national dish in the
Middle East.

It was the first time that I had baptism of taste of these delicacies but it was all worth the 15-minute trip to the first museum in the world devoted to Arab American history and culture.

My stay at the Arab American museum devoted to the 22-nation region that brought to the world among others Lebanese-American singer/songwriter Paul Anka, Syrian Jewish American singer and dancer Paula Abdul and Syrian American Apple co-founder Steve Jobs gave me even more pleasant surprises.




F or instance, it was there that I realized that although the differences are always overhyped, there are many similarities among Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Among others, all these religions were derived from Abrahamic religions – all believe that Prophet Abraham was the leader of the belief of one God; all these have roots from the Arab world; all are monotheistic religion – the belief that there is only one God; all recognize a holy book considered to be the word of God (for Jews, it is the Torah; for Christians, the Bible; and for Muslims (Islam), the Qu’ran); all have a creation story in which God created the universe out of nothing; all believe that God sent prophets to spread the word; all believe that individuals will be held accountable for their actions; and all believe in charity, with the requirement of giving to those in need.

Arab Americans are considered an ethnic group that comprises approximately 1.5% of the population. Arab Americans, and Arabs in general, comprise a highly-diverse amalgam of groups with differing ancestral origins, religious backgrounds and historic identities. Instead, the ties that bind are a shared heritage by virtue of common linguistic, cultural, and political traditions.

I renewed my contact with Mae after she sent me a press release on the events ACCESS has lined up for the upcoming 10th anniversary celebration among them “The New Legal Landscape” Thursday, Sept. 8th, at 9:30 a.m. at Wayne State University Undergraduate Library in Detroit; “How 9/11 Shaped Our Lives,” on Friday, Sept. 9th, at 9 a.m. at University of Michigan-Dearborn; and “U.S. Rising: Emerging Voices in Post 9/11 America” on Saturday, Sept. 10th at 9 a.m., at Arab American Museum in Dearborn.



W hen I asked Mae additional questions, she took time to respond. But then I told her I found some answers to some of my questions from an online posting, “Guide to Arab Culture: Health Care Delivery to the Arab American Community,” by Arab American community leaders.

Because this posting was dated April, 1999, the characterization of Arab-American Muslims should be an objective basis of our perception of the Arab Muslims less than two years before
Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It will not be fair to make an analysis of Muslims after 9/11 tragic events because all the God-fearing and law-abiding Muslims have now been lumped with the 19 hijackers of the Twin Towers.

Some of these truths that have remained unchanged more than ten years ago or hundreds of years ago are the following:


  • Although Muslims are divided into the moderate Sunni and the extremist Shi’ite, they both adhere to an “essentially uniform practice with respect to the fundamentals of Divine Law and religious obligation.”


  • Muslims adhere to five fundamental pillars of Islam, which are: 1) shahadatan, testimony of the unity of God and the prophet hood of Muhammad, 2) prayer five times daily (salah), 3) almsgiving and social responsibility to the poor (zakah), 4) fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm), and 5) performance of the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj.


  • Muslims attribute some personal achievement to Allah, but fault the errors to the human being.


  • While polygamy is allowed, few Muslims practice it. Polygamy is the exception, not the rule in the Arab community. One of the most important factors that motivate a man to take a second wife during his lifetime is the first wife's inability to produce children. In exceptional social circumstances, the man may take a widowed woman as a second wife to provide for her security. # # #


Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at: (




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